Arriving at the soccer fields at Burns Park in North Little Rock early on Saturday morning, one of the first things that struck me was the number of people in shorts and short sleeves. At this race last year I was wearing a long down coat, the one I lovingly refer to as my sleeping bag, and many racers were bundled in fleece and tights only shedding an outer layer after the start. In years past, this race has been met with cold, rain, ice or snow. In 2011 the race was postponed for 3 hours, waiting for the snow and ice to clear. This year the starting temperature was hovering just above 50 degrees with a heavily overcast sky, great weather for the second race of the 2014 Arkansas RRCA Grand Prix Series.
The Arkansas Outside team was down from two people to just one so I decided to try to catch a quick photo at the start and then jump in, trying to make sure I got to cheer, talk to or high five as many of our supportive friends as possible. My running goal for this year is to run for enjoyment, to meet new people and to gather more stories. To meet goal #3, I started the run by swapping stories with Kristen Garrett who just finished her first marathon a little more than a month ago at 3 Bridges. Among other topics we discussed, she mentioned that running has saved her health, a theme that is common within the running community. Each event we cover is a reservoir of stories and the stories aren’t always at the front of the pack.
Leah Thorvilson, elite runner and Olympic hopeful is back after an injury. She still holds the women’s course record from 2011 when she finished in 53:50. This year she smoked it in 53:59. At the finish she would take second place overall to Mark Ferguson’s first place finish and there is no denying…She’s baaaaaack.
There were lessons on the proper technique for water stops demonstrated by one of the 3Bridges Marathon directors and super race volunteer, Jacob Wells, while literally lending a hand-up with the Hot Legs running group.
The Hot Legs crew had great music and great cheerleaders including Venus the bear who was cheering her little stuffed heart out for runners right up to the end.
Another great story I got on the trail was from Julie Kerr. I ran up alongside her when I saw the flower in her hair signifying her participation in Declare It Day. I asked what her declaration was and she shared that as a member of the Saline County Striders and a leader in the Women Can Run effort, her goal for this year was to run 6 Half Marathon races. I’d also say she’s been declared an inspiration as one of the women nearby yelled out that Julie is her hero and a great leader in her running community. Kudos to Julie and thanks for sharing your story.
Another story that goes along with being at all these events? Friendship. This is how you greet a friend along the trail, with arms wide and a smile. Hi James, it’s nice to see you too.
I’ll collect the hug later Skip, thanks.
And if you’re already out on the trail with friends, pose. Emily Hartman and Mary Struthers have the Runners Make Better Friends pose down pat.
If you’re out at your first race since a head injury sidelined you from running with your favorite running buddies for months? First, if you’re Ben Mansur, you grow a wonderfully magnificent beard. Then you chase your running partner Corina down when you realize that she has you back in the game and your days of couch and ice cream marathons are over. He might not have appreciated you at mile 10 Corina, but I know he’s glad to be back and we’re happy to see him out on the trail too.
And the story that ends every race? What’s my time?
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